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The Sound of Money: Celebrating “The Sound of Music” on its 50th Anniversary

March 11, 2015 - 11:45 am   |   by

“I knew we had a good picture, but I had no idea that it would become such a staggering hit.” — producer-director Robert Wise

“Considering the degree to which most people pride themselves being cynical, I’m still surprised that a movie this heartfelt was so thoroughly embraced by so many people and continues to be. Perhaps folks aren’t as hard-edged as they pretend to be.” — film historian and author Barry Monush  [Read more here...]

The Digital Bits is proud to present this retrospective article commemorating the golden anniversary of the release of The Sound of Music, the immensely popular Rodgers & Hammerstein musical motion picture starring Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins, Victor/Victoria) and Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Would Be King, Beginners) and directed by Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sand Pebbles).

The 50th anniversary tributes and celebrations for The Sound of Music have begun to appear. There is a new Blu-ray Disc and DVD released this week, and earlier this year a new book and special collector’s magazines have been published. Later this month, the award-winning film will be screened at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles with stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in attendance. And it’s now The Bits’ turn and so we celebrate the occasion with this article featuring a detailed listing of the film’s original record-breaking roadshow engagements and an interview with a quartet of film historians who discuss the movie’s significance and enduring appeal.

The Sound of Music, which was based upon the real-life adventures of the singing von Trapp family as well as the German films Die Trapp Familie (1956) and Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika (1958) and the 1959 American stage production, was a true blockbuster (before the term was fashionable) and is noted, among other reasons, for being the first movie to break the box-office performance of Gone With the Wind, the longest tenured box-office champ at 26 years (but still the all-time record holder when accounting for inflation).

Although its overall box-office performance has since been eclipsed by more than 150 films, when adjusted for inflation, however, The Sound of Music rests comfortably at #3 behind Gone With the Wind and Star Wars and still holds many house records for gross and/or duration of engagement. (Prepare to have your mind blown when analyzing the engagement duration data in the roadshow list!) Whether you adore or loathe The Sound of Music, there’s no question the film was an unqualified success, the likes the industry had never seen and one that foreshadowed the blockbuster era.

So, without further ado….



This segment of the article features an interview with film historians Kim Holston, Matthew Kennedy, Mike Matessino, and Barry Monush. The interviews were conducted separately and have been edited into a roundtable format.

Kim Holston is the author of Movie Roadshows: A History and Filmography of Reserved-Seat Limited Showings, 1911-1973 (McFarland, 2013). Kim is a part-time librarian in the Multimedia Department of Chester County Library (Exton, PA) and lives in Wilmington, DE, with his wife Nancy and a menagerie of pets. In addition to Movie Roadshows, he is the author of various film and performing arts books, including Starlet (McFarland, 1988), Richard Widmark: A Bio-Bibliography (Greenwood Press, 1990), Susan Hayward: Her Films and Life (McFarland, 2002), and (with Warren Hope) The Shakespeare Controversy (McFarland, 2nd ed., 2009), and recently Attila’s Sorceress (New Libri Press, 2014) and Naval Gazing: How Revealed Bellybuttons of the 1960s Signaled the End of Movie Cliches Involving Negligees, Men’s Hats and Freshwater Swim Scenes (BearManor Media, 2014). He is presently at work with Tom Winchester on a follow-up to their 1997 book, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Sequels, Series and Remakes.

Kim Holston

Matthew Kennedy is the author of Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s (Oxford University Press, 2014). He is a writer, film historian, and anthropologist living in San Francisco. He has written several other books, including Marie Dressler: A Biography (McFarland, 1999, paperback 2006), Edmund Goulding’s Dark Victory: Hollywood’s Genius Bad Boy (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), and Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes (University Press of Mississippi, 2007). He is film and book critic for the respected Bright Lights Film Journal and currently teaches anthropology and film history at the City College of San Francisco and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Matthew Kennedy

Mike Matessino produced and directed the documentary The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon along with a wealth of archival material for some home-video releases of The Sound of Music. Additionally he worked on the restoration of the music recordings and has written liner notes to accompany the soundtrack release. As part of his work with producer/director Robert Wise he served as Restoration Supervisor for The Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In 2012 he produced, with Bruce Botnick, for La-La Land Records a 3-CD expanded score release of Jerry Goldsmith’s music for that film. His other soundtrack credits as producer, mixer, mastering engineer or liner notes writer include The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sand Pebbles, Empire of the Sun, 1941, Poltergeist, Alien, Gremlins, The Goonies, Back to the Future, Home Alone, Superman, and the Star Wars Trilogy. He also has directed behind-the-scenes documentaries on Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and The Last Starfighter.

Mike Matessino

Barry Monush is the author of The Sound of Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know about Maria, the von Trapps, and Our Favorite Things (Applause, 2015). He is also the author of The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965 (Applause, 2003), Everybody’s Talkin’: The Top Films of 1965-1969 (Applause, 2009) and Music on Film: West Side Story (Limelight, 2010). He updated Stanley Green’s Hollywood Musicals: Year by Year (Applause, 2010) and co-authored (with James Shreridan) Lucille Ball FAQ: Everything Left to Know about America’s Favorite Redhead (Applause, 2011). He joined the staff of Screen World in 1988, eventually becoming the editor of the annual publication. A lifelong film enthusiast, Monush is a researcher at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. He lives in Metuchen, New Jersey. Sunset Blvd. is his favorite movie.

Barry Monush


Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): In what way is The Sound of Music worthy of celebration on its 50th anniversary?

Kim Holston: The Sound of Music was a phenomenon, and an unexpected one. Who would have thought this musical would overtake Gone With the Wind (in 1965 dollars) to become the top grossing film of all time?

Matthew Kennedy: Perhaps the question should be “In what way is The Sound of Music NOT worthy of celebration”? It’s become a fundamental part of our movie pop culture, right there with The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Jaws, E.T. and Star Wars. This feels like celebrating the 50th anniversary of everybody’s favorite aunt. 

Mike Matessino: That’s like asking why we should celebrate Independence Day! The Sound of Music is a movie phenomenon that is only truly equaled by Gone With the Wind and the original Star Wars. It cemented the Rodgers and Hammerstein legacy and 20th Century Fox wouldn’t exist today if it were not for that movie. But more importantly it is a movie that reached and touched people on a very deep level and is truly timeless. That’s the whole reason why we celebrate anniversaries, I think, because some things are timeless.

Barry Monush: There are very few works that have endured so completely, well-beyond the era in which they debuted, as The Sound of Music has. It is an instantly recognizable touchstone for not only those of us who first experienced it in the 1960s, but for subsequent generations, and that sort of impact cannot be underestimated. While researching my book I was very pleased to see how many people were quick to share fond memories of seeing it at some point in their lives.

On the set of The Sound of Music

Coate: How is The Sound of Music significant within the musical genre?

Holston: It was the apotheosis of the roadshow musical: lengthy because of the plethora of songs, all of which are memorable, Julie Andrews at the top of her game and already beloved for Mary Poppins.

Kennedy: The Sound of Music had its musical origins on Broadway. It’s not an original screen musical as is The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Gigi, and Mary Poppins. That said, it’s just about the smartest adaptation from stage to screen ever made. A few of the songs (My Favorite Things, The Lonely Goatherd) were shuffled to strengthen their meaning within the story, the casting proved to be ideal, the budget was lavish, and, most wisely, it was shot on location in Salzburg and the Austrian Alps. Musically, it’s quite strong, though many claim its score is inferior to other Rodgers and Hammerstein work, including Oklahoma!, Carousel, and South Pacific. That may be, but as a film The Sound of Music is light years beyond the others, largely due to the excellent decisions made in pre-production.

Matessino: Within the film musical genre, The Sound of Music is deceptive in just how significant it is. Consider the Do-Re-Mi sequence. I last screened the movie with a colleague who hadn’t seen it in a while, and he basically said that with that sequence Robert Wise invented the music video. And he’s right. The way that sequence shows the passage of time and changes location was simply not done prior to that. Bob worked all of that out with Ernie Lehman, Saul Chaplin, Maurice Zuberano and the choreographers, Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood, and it was a groundbreaking idea. As an aside, Bob also did something very clever with it. When cast and crew returned from Austria over the July 4th weekend in 1964, there was a short break before they resumed filming at Fox. Before they started, Bob screened the edited Do-Re-Mi and you can imagine how that revitalized everyone to complete the picture… because they all now had a unified vision of what it was going to be. And look how some other songs in the movie are handled. First of all, music is itself a character in the story and a lot of the songs are actually occurring as part of the narrative. This was tremendously helpful in getting past the potential jarring moment in musicals where someone starts singing out of nowhere. Ernie Lehman crafted the dialogue very carefully when songs start, and most often, including Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss and So Long, Farewell, the characters actually “announce” that a song is about to happen. And for other songs the settings were chosen so that the singing seemed acceptable, the lush romantic setting of the gazebo, for example. Climb Ev’ry Mountain and Maria are done within the confines of an abbey. Notice also how the added song I Have Confidence was handled: it begins with Maria in shadow, establishing that this is a self-reflexive moment and really all happening in her mind, much like Over the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz. And as for the title song, the photography of the opening scene is so majestic, and the helicopter shot that introduces Julie so powerful that someone bursting into song seems the most natural thing in the world. The Sound of Music is a movie musical that truly works, and mainly because the package is clearly marked: it’s about MUSIC and its power to move people and change lives.

Monush: The Sound of Music is the blueprint for how to take a work that was enjoyed on the stage but always considered flawed and improve it to the degree that even those who hold live theater sacred above movie adaptations think of this version as the more significant one. It also contains one of the great scores by two of the most important names in songwriting history, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. In the musical genre, it is held in high esteem for the effortless manner in which it blends songs and story.

Coate: When did you first see The Sound of Music and what was your reaction?

Holston: I saw The Sound of Music with my mother in July of 1965 at the Midtown Theater in Philadelphia. I was 17 and really didn’t know what to expect, but when the curtains parted and the music began and the camera zoomed in on that hillside I just knew it was going to be great. A sidenote: 20th Century Fox sued the William Goldman theater chain to keep it from ending Sound of Music’s run there on November 15th (1966). It had begun at the Midtown on March 17th, 1965, and the studio wanted to keep it there through the ‘66 holidays. It was still making over $8,000 a week.

Kennedy: I don’t have a clear memory of the first time I saw The Sound of Music. I was very young. I had the LP, and memorized it. I remember seeing a revival of it in a theater in the early 1970s. That was such magnificent cornball bliss! I had a happy childhood, but, oh, I wanted to be a von Trapp Singer! 

Matessino: The Sound of Music was my mother’s favorite movie and she took me to see it when I was very young when it played as a revival at a local theater. Like every other kid I was charmed by the songs and the scenery and I was very fortunate to have gotten the big-screen impact of it on my first viewing. Not long after that it played on network TV for the first time and then there were several years of tuning in for the annual airing.

Monush: I saw the film during its reserved-seat engagement at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in October of 1965. The movie held my attention from start to finish, which was quite impressive considering it was three hours long and I was all of six years old. I could recall select images, scenes and musical sequences quite vividly for years after the fact. Since I was seeing this with very little information before going into the theater, I got to witness the famous opening scene for the very first time, up there on the big screen, with no previous point of reference and I remember it being genuinely awesome. Although I was too young to understand the full details behind the terror of the Nazis, I remember being tremendously moved by the image of the family escaping over the mountains at the finale.

A scene from The Sound of Music

Coate: Why do you think The Sound of Music was so incredibly popular?

Holston: It was popular because it was made by and starred professionals. It had the music, it had real-life drama, and it had Richard Haydn’s witty repartee.

Kennedy: Ah, the billion dollar question. The clichéd answer is “children, Nazis, and nuns,” but nobody really knows. This was demonstrated in the years immediately following The Sound of Music, when a succession of would-be Sound of Musics nearly bankrupted their studios with tepid box-office and/or catastrophic cost overruns. That would be Camelot, Doctor Dolittle, Star!, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Hello, Dolly!, Paint Your Wagon, Sweet Charity, Darling Lili, and others. Nothing captured the singular magical combination of story, song, cast, and timing of The Sound of Music

Matessino: The popularity of The Sound of Music, apart from the undeniable quality of the filmmaking, has to do with the fact that it addressed three themes that every human being deals with… one, the relationship between parents and children… two, finding your purpose in life… three, standing by your principles. The Sound of Music is a story (and basically a true one) in which a family has to deal with all three of these. It breaks down the barriers and compels an audience to look within and realize that these are the important things in life. As it happens in an almost fairy tale-like setting, there is an archetypal, almost mythical resonance to it. It transcends all cultural and language barriers and no matter how the story is told it retains its power and it will forever.

Monush: This is the question on which all of us can only speculate. Considering the degree to which most people pride themselves being cynical, I’m still surprised that a movie this heartfelt was so thoroughly embraced by so many people and continues to be. Perhaps folks aren’t as hard-edged as they pretend to be. For me, it’s simply a tremendous piece of filmmaking, thanks to the skills of director Robert Wise, writer Ernest Lehman, and the rest of the company working at the top of their game. Julie Andrews’ contribution cannot be underestimated because what could have been merely a good movie became something very special indeed due to her participation. It’s a triumphant story that makes you care about what happens to its characters, and leaves you with the feeling that what you have just seen has been both enormously entertaining and emotionally satisfying. Perhaps that’s what does the trick.

Coate: Where does The Sound of Music rank among star Julie Andrews’ body of work?

Holston: In Julie Andrews’ oeuvre, it is equal and maybe surpasses Mary Poppins. It might be a matter of taste. Poppins was set-bound, Sound of Music was filmed mostly in the great outdoors.

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Kennedy: If, like me, you find Julie Andrews more adept at musical roles than dramatic ones, then I’d say it’s her best. Hands down. In her debut film Mary Poppins, she’s quite starchy and clipped, which may suit the character, but in The Sound of Music she seems to be having a better time, as though she’s loosening up and getting the hang of film acting. The gaiety of Thoroughly Modern Millie is forced, and she’s downright miscast in Star! and Darling Lili. That nearly sums up her musical career save for Victor/Victoria, which is fun. Le Jazz Hot is a terrific set piece for her, but the material doesn’t suit her quite like Music. Julie Andrews and Maria von Trapp is a perfect match. 

Matessino: It’s an iconic performance, no doubt about that. If you study it carefully you see that she knew just when to add total realism (watch her carefully when Richard Haydn takes her by the arm to get her to join the party) and when to not take things too seriously. She brings real bite to the role that is very much reflective of how the real Maria was. Julie is an amazing performer with a wide range, and while she totally understands the impact she had with this role and with Mary Poppins I think she has confidence (pun intended) that discerning viewers will be interested in the many other things she has done.

Monush: Andrews has always been one of the entertainment industry’s true treasures. She was not merely a great singer, but an outstanding actress as well. This is indeed her best performance, because she never once makes the character sanctimonious or self-conscious in her efforts to please, as other actresses might have. She’s the one who pulls viewers into the story from the start, and makes you believe it every step of the way.

A scene from The Sound of Music

Coate: Where does The Sound of Music rank among director Robert Wise’s body of work?

Holston: As it has been said of director Wise, he was a chameleon who couldn’t be pigeon-holed. He made successful, even seminal films in all genres: The Body SnatcherCurse of the Cat People; The Set-UpThe Day the Earth Stood Still; Executive SuiteRun Silent, Run Deep; Odds Against TomorrowI Want To Live!; The Haunting; The Sand Pebbles. In fact, Wise’s record for good to excellent films is outstanding. The Sound of Music was especially significant for him because it brought him his second directing Oscar (West Side Story being the first).

Kennedy: Robert Wise’s career was absolutely amazing. Early on he edits Citizen Kane and (controversially) The Magnificent Ambersons, then directs everything from horror (The Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher) to film noir (Born to Kill, The House on Telegraph Hill), science-fiction (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain), glossy soap opera (Executive Suite), heavy drama (I Want to Live!), and a top drawer spookfest (The Haunting). It’s very hard, perhaps futile, to compare any of those with The Sound of Music. We can only shake our heads that they were all directed by the same man. His first Oscar came for directing West Side Story, which may be of the same genre as The Sound of Music, but most comparisons end there. I admire several of Wise’s credits, but nothing clicked like The Sound of Music. He somewhat admitted this, and like everyone else, couldn’t quite pinpoint why The Sound of Music became such a phenomenon. 

Matessino: For a movie that Bob did simply because there was a hole in his schedule while waiting for location problems to be worked out for The Sand Pebbles, I think it ranks as a masterful achievement. He, Solly and Ernie had already had a great success with West Side Story and here they were doing it all over again, winning Oscars and saving a studio in the process. Creatively I think it shows that Bob Wise could do anything and also that he knew how to find just the right people on both sides of the camera. There is a tremendous power to the filmmaking and Bob was always proud of his work on the picture.

Monush: In a career full of impressive credits, this film is indeed among his finest accomplishments. Wise was thoroughly deserving of the Academy Award he received for his efforts here, because of the incredible control he brought to potentially sticky material, telling the story with taste, humor, and great emotional understanding.

Coate: In what way was it beneficial for The Sound of Music to be initially exhibited as a roadshow?

Holston: It was the golden age of roadshows, and to be a roadshow was to be prestigious. Buying seats in advance made it an event.

Kennedy: It made a huge difference; it was 20th Century Fox’s way of saying “Pay attention! This is a very important movie!” If marketed well, the anticipation of roadshow treats (elaborate theater, reserved seats, souvenir program, overture, intermission, exit music) was high indeed. The Sound of Music rolled out from its initial engagements on single screens in New York and Los Angeles to other major urban centers within a month, then spread to secondary markets after that. There was an alchemy at work here, too, as the timing and pacing drew huge crowds. But it was the film itself that accounted for the very high repeat business. Some patrons saw The Sound of Music over and over and over and over and over again and still couldn’t get enough. People were hooked on it like it was opium. 

Matessino: It was a different era, as the authors who are commenting on the subject will elaborate on. A roadshow musical based on a hit Broadway musical created the same kind of sense of importance and anticipation as going to live theater. When you have a “hard ticket” and reserved seating sold in advance for a movie playing at just one big theater, you create buzz and word-of-mouth, and that works if the movie is good. Bob’s publicist, Mike Kaplan, worked his magic for Fox on The Sound of Music and it paid off in spades.

Monush: Roadshow was a great idea for bringing special attention to select movies, allowing them to be seen in the grand manner they deserved, and to roll out slowly throughout the year (or even longer) rather than hit theaters in mass bookings all at once. This form of exhibition gave audiences greater opportunities to see movies in theaters, where they were intended, rather than have to catch them during very short runs, as is often the case today, or opt for them on inferior home viewing formats.

Coate: Would the roadshow concept work for today’s movies?

Holston: I doubt it. It is now possible to purchase tickets in advance for the initial showings of some films, but those tickets are not for specific seats and you don’t get deluxe programs and overtures and intermissions. Ever since Billy Jack and Jaws, people are used to seeing a new film immediately somewhere in their vicinity. Instant gratification. Today no one’s going to drive into a city to see a movie that won’t come to the suburbs for months or a year — if it’s successful. That’s what happened with the likes of West Side Story, Cleopatra and The Sound of Music. Plus, there are hardly any huge art deco movie theaters left in inner cities. As I researched my book I realized that roadshows and movie palaces existed symbiotically. The roadshow depended on palatial theaters — and big premieres. Not to mention concentration of people in cities. Suburbs, cars, and mall theaters helped kill the “experience.”

Kennedy: I don’t think so. Roadshows played hard to get, beginning in big cities on single screens.  Today we know most all movie will be available in many forms via the home markets, TV, streaming, etc.  Roadshows were based on limited opportunity to see them before they disappeared into the vaults.  Opening a huge movie on a handful of screens and withholding it from a larger audience for weeks or months has become too risky. When roadshows were not well received, word of mouth killed them.  Now with thousands of screens showing the same “blockbuster” in its opening weekend, audiences are lured in before negative word of mouth spreads. Maybe that’s changing, too. Nowadays audiences text and tweet “this movie sucks” far and wide before its first matinee is over. 

Matessino: The concept would only work today if you had a movie that was truly a phenomenon (and not a pre-packaged one), something people felt that the theater was the only place to see it. The word of mouth would have to be unanimously positive. And going a step further, the current model would have to be completely shattered by not announcing when the movie would be available on video or for streaming. Sadly, those dates are announced when a movie opens in theaters, so basically the model wouldn’t work unless you had the right movie.

Monush: Alas, the mind-set of today’s audiences is to receive movies as quickly and conveniently as possible, with very little consideration for how they see them, as long as they are not obliged to wait or make too much effort. Because of this sense of “entitlement,” I don’t know if people could even grasp the concept of paying special prices and reserving specific seats in advance to see a movie that would require you to make a special trip to see it.

A scene from The Sound of Music

Coate: Kim, what was the objective with your book, Movie Roadshows: A History and Filmography of Reserved-Seat Limited Showings, 1911-1973?

Holston: I wanted to recapture an era of moviegoing when certain movies were given extra special attention and presented as an event akin to attending the ballet, opera or a concert. As I did the research and discovered that reserved-seat roadshows can be traced back to the silent era — and not just for Birth of a Nation and Intolerance — I aimed to describe the unique and sometimes impromptu distribution and exhibition methods used. Films such as Cleopatra and The Sound of Music are given longer entries because of pre-release media attention and hullabaloo, post-release popularity, or especially in the case of 2001: A Space Odyssey, artistic/cinematic significance.

Coate: Matthew, what was the objective with your book, Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s?

Kennedy: Roadshow! investigates film musicals after The Sound of Music that were for the most part critical and financial disappointments. I wanted to better understand why this beloved genre moved to the fringes of popular culture by the early ‘70s when it had been so vibrant ten years earlier. It made sense to me to begin Roadshow! with The Sound of Music (and additional lead-in with Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady) because it was the summit of the commercial success of film musicals. Roadshow musicals post-Sound of Music covertly and overtly sought to ride that wave of success. 

Coate: Mike, what was the objective with your Sound of Music documentary and LaserDisc supplements? Are you pleased with the manner in which those materials have been ported over to subsequent home-video releases?

Matessino: There was no initial objective for the documentary because one was not originally planned. It was 1993 and back then it was a big deal just to get a studio to agree to do a few local on-camera interviews. That was going to be the extent of it initially, plus a commentary, trailers and stills. I had just met Robert Wise and started working with him to supervise the video transfers of some of his pictures and got involved in contacting people who’d worked with him. At that time we were also working on interviewing people for Star!, his 1968 Gertrude Lawrence musical biography, which also starred Julie Andrews but had not been a success. The way we got to do interviews for that was by agreeing to do Sound of Music interviews in tandem, thus splitting the cost between the two projects. But on The Sound of Music it was just going to be some of the filmmakers at first and none of the actors. At that time, the artists who’d played the children in the picture were all feeling a little short-changed because they had done a lot over the years without being compensated. But then Charmian Carr agreed to be interviewed because she was good friends with Bob and she would sort of speak for the rest.

That was supposed to be the end of it but then, out of nowhere, came a call from Christopher Plummer’s agent in New York. At that time everyone assumed he had negative feelings about the movie, and I was expecting to be told that I could not use clips or photos of Chris, or something to that effect, but to my shock I was asked if Chris could record some audio recollections to include in the project. I immediately asked if he would agree to being interviewed on camera if I could come to New York and the answer was yes! I immediately called Fox to let them know and then got in touch with the Rodgers & Hammerstein office in New York. They, in turn, put me in touch with the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont and all of a sudden I was arranging to do about a dozen interviews on the east coast. Two days before I left for New York, I got a call from Bob. Nick Hammond, who plays Friedrich in the movie was in his office and Bob told him what was going on. He was leaving for Sydney the next day and asked if there any way to get an on-camera interview done. We quickly found a studio to do it and he went straight from there to the airport. The next day I was off to New York for interviews there and then spent four days at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont.

At that time there really was not that much synergy between the von Trapp family, the R&H people, and the filmmakers. There were separate “camps,” if you will, each with its own emphasis on what the property represented. But I recognized that there was one big story in there where everything and everyone was connected. In all humility I feel that I broke down a lot of walls with this documentary. When I got back to California I got a call from Mike Kaplan, the publicist on the picture originally, who was involved in everything that was going on. He said that Julie had reconsidered doing the interview. I supposed this happened because she had heard Chris had done it. The condition was that we do the interview at her office on the same day that we were having a 25th anniversary screening of Star! at the Director’s Guild because she’d already be in hair and make-up for that. That was fine with me, but because we had to put a camera crew together I was able to get another interview day out of it and so I was able to add Dee Dee Wood (also done at Julie’s office), editor William Reynolds, and Dick Zanuck, who was the head of production at Fox at the time the movie was made. When all was said and done I had 25 on-camera interviews and the opportunity to really tell the story from beginning to end… the real life story of the von Trapps that led to Maria writing her book, that led to the German-language film, that led to the Broadway show, that led to the movie being made at 20th Century Fox and saving the studio from bankruptcy.

In my opinion, the bar had been set a few years earlier with Jeffrey Selznick’s documentary for Turner, The Making of a Legend: Gone With the Wind, which, coincidentally was narrated by Christopher Plummer. I still feel that it’s possibly the best behind-the-scenes documentary ever done and essential viewing for anyone interested in any aspect of the moviemaking business. If there is any other classic movie that could withstand that kind of approach, it is The Sound of Music. The history behind the movie and the magnitude of its success is simply a great story and I had the opportunity to tell it… but not necessarily the budget. So a lot of things were done very quick-and-dirty, but I tried to make sure the story and the interviews were put together in a compelling way. Some wonderful things happened, such as getting Claire Bloom (who’d worked with Bob on The Haunting) to be narrator. I felt that I really wanted a female narrator — which was rarely done at the time, even on cable specials — and her voice was authoritative yet had the softness that I was going for. We also had use of the music thanks to the simultaneous work on the soundtrack CD that accompanied the LaserDisc set.

The documentary was on its own VHS tape in the UK release of the movie and then it was carried over to the first DVD release. On the second one they wanted to promote all-new material but on the third one, in 2010, they put together everything and even included things I’d wanted in 1995 but didn’t get, such as the appearance of Maria von Trapp on The Julie Andrews Hour and the great clip of Julie and Carol Burnett doing The Pratt Family Singers sketch in 1962 on their first special together, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall. I’ve always wanted to go back and polish up the documentary technically, and perhaps see if it could be expanded a bit (the running time was dictated by the restrictions of LaserDisc), but I’m glad it’s still included on releases of the film. It was the very first time Julie and Chris both participated in the same project and right after that they began appearing together, first on talk shows, then on a live TV production of On Golden Pond, and then in a touring Christmas show. I also think that Plummer’s gradual change of heart with regard to The Sound of Music began with my interview. I remember screening the documentary for Bob, Ernie and Solly at the Director’s Guild and they were amazed at what I’d gotten out of Chris. The other shocking thing was that before the documentary was finished we’d lost two of the interviewees, illustrator Maurice Zuberano and arranger/conductor Irwin Kostal. And now, all of the filmmakers are gone and we just have the cast, and in the intervening years they have all bonded together. There is a synergy now between them and R&H and with the von Trapps and with the tourism board in Salzburg, and I can’t help but feel that my project was what cleared the weeds from the pathway so that all of that could happen. It’s all part of one big story again.

Coate: Barry, what was the objective with your book, The Sound of Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know about Maria, the von Trapps, and Our Favorite Things?

Monush: I wanted to go beyond a simple “making of” book and explore all aspects of this work, including the Trapp Family’s true story in relation to how the musical dramatized it; the musical’s many incarnations on stage; the score and its place in recording history; the staggering impact The Sound of Music made on motion picture box offices in the 1960s and its enduring popularity on various home viewing formats and television; and its unique place in pop culture history.

A scene from The Sound of Music

Coate: What is the legacy of The Sound of Music?

Holston: It seamlessly merged the natural world with the artificiality of impromptu singing and dancing, which was the real art of the Hollywood musical, as distinct from the “stage door” musicals and biopics. Interestingly, most of the Fox musicals from the ‘30s through the ‘50s were “backstage” films where the entertainment took place in the theater. One might also opine that the filmmakers caught lightning in a bottle: Julie Andrews.

Kennedy: The short term legacy was the green lighting of so many musicals, with hits (Oliver!, Funny Girl, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret) sprinkled among the misses. Tastes changed radically by the 1970s, and safe money was on low-budget films appealing to young audiences. Musicals went into retreat, and lost their central place in our film-going culture. For a long time it was very un-hip to love The Sound of Music. Now it’s seen as a cherished relic that will never be duplicated. It’s one of those rare films that became a widely shared experience, each of us carrying specific memories of when and where we saw it and how we feel about it. It’s in our collective bloodstream. 

Matessino: I think I’ve touched on all my answers to this… it’s the themes that the movie addresses, the fact that it saved a studio, that it’s the crowning achievement of its songwriters, and that it will forever stand as a reason to explore the entire body of work of the great Robert Wise.

Monush: It is the rare movie of the past that continues to be instantly recognized by a majority of the world’s citizens. It represents the very best of what its era had to offer, entertainment produced on a lavish scale but without pretentions; presentations that appealed to both adult and young audiences without being alienating to either.

Coate: Thank you, Kim, Matthew, Mike, and Barry, for participating and for sharing your thoughts about The Sound of Music on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

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What follows is a list of the known domestic theatrical “hard ticket” roadshow engagements of The Sound of Music, arranged chronologically by date of premiere. The duration of the engagements, measured in weeks, has been included to illustrate the film’s popularity.

World Premiere at the Rivoli

These roadshow engagements of The Sound of Music were exclusive engagements that preceded any general-release exhibition. Out of hundreds of films released during 1965, The Sound of Music was among only ten given deluxe roadshow treatment in the United States and Canada. Many of these presentations were screened in 70-millimeter with six-track stereophonic sound; the rest were shown in 35mm reduction prints (many with stereophonic sound). Much like a stage show, these bookings featured reserved seating, an advanced admission price, were shown an average of only ten times per week, and included an intermission. Souvenir program booklets were sold, as well.

  • 1965-01-15 ... Minneapolis, MN – Mann (sneak preview test screening)
  • 1965-01-16 ... Tulsa, OK – Brook (sneak preview test screening)
  • 1965-03-02 ... New York, NY – Rivoli (93 weeks)
  • 1965-03-10 ... Los Angeles (Beverly Hills), CA – Fox Wilshire (94)
  • 1965-03-10 ... Toronto, ON – Eglinton (146)
  • 1965-03-17 ... Boston, MA – Gary (83)
  • 1965-03-17 ... Chicago, IL – Michael Todd (93)
  • 1965-03-17 ... Detroit, MI – Madison (98)
  • 1965-03-17 ... Miami (Miami Beach), FL – Colony (82)
  • 1965-03-17 ... Philadelphia, PA – Midtown (93)
  • 1965-03-17 ... Vancouver, BC – Ridge (99)
  • 1965-03-17 ... Washington, DC – Ontario (97)
  • 1965-03-18 ... Montreal, QC – Seville (98)
  • 1965-03-18 ... San Francisco, CA – United Artists (93)
  • 1965-03-24 ... Atlanta, GA – Martin Cinerama (89)
    Program cover
  • 1965-03-24 ... Baltimore, MD – New (91)
  • 1965-03-24 ... Cleveland, OH – Ohio (91)
  • 1965-03-24 ... Dallas, TX – Inwood (91)
  • 1965-03-24 ... Denver, CO – Aladdin (112)
  • 1965-03-24 ... Milwaukee, WI – Strand (97)
  • 1965-03-24 ... Minneapolis, MN – Mann (95)
  • 1965-03-24 ... Providence (Warwick), RI – Warwick (86)
  • 1965-03-24 ... Salt Lake City, UT – Utah (95)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Buffalo, NY – Teck (79)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Calgary, AB – Odeon (72)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Charlotte, NC – Carolina (79)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Cincinnati, OH – International 70 (79)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Edmonton, AB – Varscona (114)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Honolulu, HI – Kuhio (81)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Houston, TX – Alabama (90)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Indianapolis, IN – Lyric (94)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Phoenix, AZ – Vista (115)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Richmond, VA – Willow Lawn (86)
  • 1965-03-31 ... St. Louis, MO – St. Louis (83)
  • 1965-03-31 ... San Diego, CA – Loma (133)
  • 1965-03-31 ... Seattle, WA – 5th Avenue (117)
  • 1965-04-01 ... Winnipeg, MB – Kings (88)
  • 1965-04-06 ... Tulsa, OK – Brook (79)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Columbus, OH – Northland (84)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Dayton, OH – Dabel (105)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Des Moines, IA – Capri (113)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Jacksonville, FL – 5 Points (31)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Louisville, KY – Rialto (64)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Memphis, TN – Paramount (79)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Norfolk, VA – Riverview (115)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Oklahoma City, OK – Tower (82)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Omaha, NE – Dundee (118)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Pittsburgh, PA – Nixon (106)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Portland, OR – Fox (116)
  • 1965-04-07 ... San Antonio, TX – North Star Mall I (82)
  • 1965-04-07 ... Tampa, FL – Palace (77)
  • 1965-04-15 ... Orlando, FL – Beacham (60)
  • 1965-04-15 ... Rochester, NY – Monroe (85)
  • 1965-05-27 ... Atlantic City, NJ – Virginia (79)
  • 1965-05-27 ... Fort Worth, TX – Palace (21)
  • 1965-05-28 ... Syracuse (DeWitt), NY – Shoppingtown (76)
  • 1965-06-18 ... Albany, NY – Hellman (30)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Akron (Fairlawn Village), OH – Village (91)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Asbury Park, NJ – Paramount (76)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Hartford (West Hartford), CT – Elm (77)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Nashville, TN – Belle Meade (69)
  • 1965-06-23 ... New Haven (Hamden), CT – Cinemart (73)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Newark (Upper Montclair), NJ – Bellevue (100)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Oyster Bay (Syosset), NY – Syosset (78)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Scranton, PA – West Side (53)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Toledo, OH – Princess 70 (91)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Worcester (Shrewsbury), MA – White City (53)
  • 1965-06-23 ... Youngstown, OH – State (51)
  • 1965-06-30 ... London, ON – Hyland (73)
  • 1965-06-30 ... Ottawa, ON – Nelson (55)
  • 1965-06-30 ... Sudbury, ON – Century (14)

World Premiere ad

  • 1965-07-07 ... Columbia, SC – Carolina (22)
  • 1965-07-14 ... Harrisburg, PA – Eric (68)
  • 1965-07-14 ... Kansas City, MO – Midland (75)
  • 1965-07-16 ... Chattanooga, TN – Brainerd (31)
  • 1965-07-21 ... Portland (Westbrook), ME – Cinema I (68)
  • 1965-07-21 ... Savannah, GA – Savannah (12)
  • 1965-07-21 ... Wichita, KS – Boulevard (49)
  • 1965-07-22 ... Birmingham, AL – Eastwood Mall (17)
  • 1965-07-22 ... Grand Rapids, MI – Midtown (71)
  • 1965-08-03 ... El Paso, TX – Pershing (17)70mm frames
  • 1965-08-04 ... Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine (16)
  • 1965-08-04 ... Sioux City, IA – Cinema (47)
  • 1965-08-06 ... Cedar Rapids, IA – Times 70 (65)
  • 1965-08-06 ... Lexington, KY – Kentucky (16)
  • 1965-08-11 ... Greenville, SC – Carolina (15)
  • 1965-08-11 ... Raleigh, NC – Ambassador (61)
  • 1965-08-11 ... Winston-Salem, NC – Winston (44)
  • 1965-08-13 ... Columbus, GA – Beverly (13)
  • 1965-08-18 ... Erie, PA – Plaza (21)
  • 1965-09-22 ... Beaumont, TX – Liberty (12)
  • 1965-09-22 ... Corpus Christi, TX – Tower (12)
  • 1965-09-22 ... Eugene, OR – Fox (26)
  • 1965-09-22 ... Knoxville, TN – Park (45)
  • 1965-09-22 ... Little Rock, AR – Capitol (13)
  • 1965-09-22 ... Sacramento, CA – Crest (59)
  • 1965-09-22 ... Spokane, WA – State (54)
  • 1965-09-23 ... Augusta, GA – Daniel Village (19)
  • 1965-09-23 ... Macon, GA – Grand (14)
  • 1965-09-29 ... Tucson, AZ – Catalina (45)
  • 1965-10-06 ... Fall River, MA – Durfee (37)
  • 1965-10-06 ... Springfield (West Springfield), MA – Showcase 2 (36)
  • 1965-10-14 ... Las Vegas, NV – Fox (24)
  • 1965-10-20 ... Fargo (Moorhead, MN), ND – Moorhead (53)
  • 1965-10-20 ... New Orleans, LA – Orleans (56)
  • 1965-10-27 ... Hamilton, ON – Century (38)
  • 1965-10-27 ... Springfield, IL – Lincoln (23)
  • 1965-10-28 ... Charleston, SC – Riviera (13)
  • 1965-10-28 ... Fort Wayne, IN – Jefferson (55)
  • 1965-10-29 ... Evansville, IN – Washington (33)

Fox Wilshire

  • 1965-11-03 ... Fitchburg, MA – Saxon (16)
  • 1965-11-10 ... Davenport, IA – Coronet (74)
  • 1965-12-23 ... Colorado Springs, CO – Cooper 70 (40)
  • 1965-12-24 ... Austin, TX – Varsity (22)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Allentown, PA – Boyd (45)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Binghamton, NY – Capri (27)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Boise, ID – Ada (11)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Canton, OH – Palace (42)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Champaign, IL – Co-Ed II (26)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Fresno, CA – Warner (33)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Green Bay, WI – West (39)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Jacksonville, NC – Iwo Jima (12)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Lubbock, TX – Village (41)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Lynchburg, VA – Warner (19)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Manchester, NH – Strand (27)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Montgomery, AL – Empire (18)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Newport News, VA – Newmarket (41)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Reno, NV – Crest (19)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Roanoke, VA – Grandin (39)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Shreveport, LA – Broadmoor (35)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Sioux Falls, SD – Cinema (44)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Utica, NY – Uptown (26)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Williamsport, PA – Rialto (27)
  • 1966-01-19 ... Madison, WI – Hilldale (39)
  • 1966-01-21 ... Palm Beach, FL – Paramount (20)
  • 1966-01-26 ... Mobile, AL – Loop (25)
  • 1966-01-26 ... Pensacola, FL – Rex (12)
  • 1966-01-28 ... Bristol, TN – Paramount (17)
  • 1966-02-02 ... Melbourne (Cocoa Beach), FL – Fine Arts (29)
  • 1966-02-02 ... Reading, PA – Fox (41)
  • 1966-02-02 ... Tallahassee, FL – State (8)
  • 1966-02-04 ... Daytona Beach, FL – Beach (16)
  • 1966-02-09 ... Quebec City (Ste-Foy), QC – Cinema Ste-Foy Salle Alouette (43)
  • 1966-02-11 ... Wheeling, WV – Victoria (20)
  • 1966-02-16 ... Lawrence, MA – Showcase 1 (36)
  • 1966-02-18 ... Halifax, NS – Paramount (19)
  • 1966-02-18 ... Tuscaloosa, AL – Capri (15)
  • 1966-02-23 ... Charleston, WV – Capitol (17)
  • 1966-02-23 ... Huntington, WV – Orpheum (18)
  • 1966-02-24 ... Kingston, ON – Hyland (13)
  • 1966-03-03 ... Flint, MI – Palace (17)Ticket stub
  • 1966-03-03 ... Kalamazoo, MI – Capitol (16)
  • 1966-03-03 ... Lansing, MI – Gladmer (16)
  • 1966-03-18 ... Victoria, BC – Odeon (24)
  • 1966-03-23 ... Billings, MT – Babcock (27)
  • 1966-03-23 ... Jackson, MS – Paramount (12)
  • 1966-03-24 ... Amarillo, TX – Esquire (17)
  • 1966-03-24 ... Harlingen, TX – Rialto (12)
  • 1966-03-24 ... Tyler, TX – Arcadia (14)
  • 1966-03-30 ... Great Falls, MT – Civic Center (13)
  • 1966-03-30 ... Hagerstown, MD – Colonial (13)
  • 1966-03-30 ... Johnstown, PA – State (11)
  • 1966-03-30 ... New London, CT – Capitol (14)
  • 1966-03-30 ... St. Joseph, MO – Fox East Hills (13)
  • 1966-03-30 ... Springfield, MO – Gillioz (13)
  • 1966-03-30 ... State College, PA – Nittany (10)
  • 1966-03-30 ... Topeka, KS – Grand (13)
  • 1966-03-31 ... Waco, TX – 25th Street (10)
  • 1966-04-06 ... Charlottesville, VA – University (16)
  • 1966-04-06 ... Yakima, WA – Yakima (19)
  • 1966-04-07 ... Baton Rouge, LA – Paramount (22)
  • 1966-04-07 ... Kitchener (Waterloo), ON – Waterloo (22)
  • 1966-04-07 ... Monroe, LA – Eastgate (16)
  • 1966-04-07 ... Quincy, IL – State (10)
  • 1966-04-07 ... Spartanburg, SC – Palmetto (14)
  • 1966-04-08 ... Rockford, IL – Times (25)
  • 1966-04-14 ... Wichita Falls, TX – State (10)
  • 1966-04-21 ... Abilene, TX – Queen (14)
  • 1966-05-25 ... Albany, NY – Hellman (return engagement, 9 [39])
  • 1966-05-25 ... Wildwood, NJ – Ocean (19)
  • 1966-05-27 ... Myrtle Beach, SC – Gloria (17)
  • 1966-06-15 ... Duluth, MN – Duluth (23)
  • 1966-06-15 ... Grand Forks, ND – Forx (24)
  • 1966-06-22 ... Columbia, MO – Cinema (15)
  • 1966-06-22 ... Lancaster, PA – Fulton (20)
  • 1966-06-23 ... Dubuque, IA – Strand (23)
  • 1966-06-29 ... Brockton, MA – Westgate Mall I (39)
  • 1966-06-29 ... Hyannis, MA – Center (14)
  • 1966-06-29 ... Louisville, KY – Penthouse (moveover from Rialto, 15 [79])
  • 1966-06-30 ... Lethbridge, AB – Paramount (11)
  • 1966-06-30 ... Thunder Bay (Fort William), ON – Capitol (11)
  • 1966-07-01 ... Peoria, IL – Beverly (23)
  • 1966-07-12 ... San Jose, CA – Century 22 (67)
  • 1966-07-27 ... Altoona, PA – Capitol (12)
  • 1966-07-27 ... South Bend, IN – River Park (34)
  • 1966-08-31 ... Trenton (Fairless Hills, PA), NJ – Eric (28)
  • 1966-09-21 ... Anchorage, AK – Fireweed (12)
  • 1966-09-21 ... Brandon, MB – Strand (4)
  • 1966-09-21 ... Oakland, CA – Roxie (35)
  • 1966-09-21 ... Regina, SK – Capitol (16)
  • 1966-09-21 ... Stockton, CA – Ritz (18)Roadshow ticket
  • 1966-09-22 ... Belleville, ON – Belle (7)
  • 1966-09-22 ... Brantford, ON – Odeon (6)
  • 1966-09-22 ... Moncton, NB – Paramount (6)
  • 1966-09-22 ... North Bay, ON – Capitol (5)
  • 1966-09-22 ... Peterborough, ON – Paramount (10)
  • 1966-09-22 ... Prince George, BC – Parkwood (4)
  • 1966-09-22 ... Sarnia, ON – Odeon (10)
  • 1966-09-22 ... Sault Ste. Marie, ON – Algoma (5)
  • 1966-10-05 ... Monterey, CA – Steinbeck (25)
  • 1966-10-05 ... Wilmington, DE – Cinema 141 (41)
  • 1966-10-12 ... Burlington, VT – State (20)
  • 1966-10-12 ... Wilkes-Barre (Edwardsville), PA – Gateway (19)
  • 1966-10-13 ... Cornwall, ON – Capitol (4)
  • 1966-10-20 ... Brockville, ON – Capitol (5)
  • 1966-10-20 ... Timmins, ON – Victory (4)
  • 1966-10-20 ... Windsor, ON – Park (22)
  • 1966-10-26 ... Chelmsford, MA – Rte. 3 Cinema II (12)
  • 1966-10-26 ... Cumberland, MD – Strand (9)
  • 1966-10-26 ... Maynard, MA – Fine Arts (5)
  • 1966-11-02 ... St. Louis (Ellisville), MO – Ellisville (16)
  • 1966-11-02 ... St. Louis (Moline Acres), MO – Lewis & Clark (12)
  • 1966-11-09 ... Boston, MA – Paris (13)
  • 1966-12-21 ... Bridgeport (Trumbull), CT – United Artists (26)
  • 1966-12-21 ... Fredericksburg, VA – Victoria (11)
  • 1966-12-21 ... Harrisburg, PA – Eric (return engagement, 8 [76])

  • 1966-12-21 ... Lebanon, PA – Colonial (8)
  • 1966-12-21 ... Petersburg, VA – Bluebird (6)
  • 1966-12-23 ... Guelph, ON – Palace (4)
  • 1966-12-23 ... Hickory, NC – Carolina (9)
  • 1966-12-23 ... Montreal (Pointe-Claire), QC – Fairview Twin (16)
  • 1966-12-23 ... Niagara Falls, ON – Seneca (7)
  • 1966-12-23 ... St. Catharines, ON – Pen Centre (15)
  • 1966-12-23 ... Saskatoon, SK – Paramount (18)
  • 1966-12-23 ... Tacoma, WA – Temple (12)
  • 1966-12-25 ... Los Angeles, CA – Carthay Circle (moveover from Fox Wilshire, 23 [117])
  • 1966-12-26 ... Medicine Hat, AB – Monarch (6)
  • 1966-12-26 ... Prince Rupert, BC – Totem (4)
  • 1966-12-26 ... Saint John, NB – Paramount (8)
  • 1966-12-28 ... St. John’s, NF – Capitol (7)
  • 1966-12-29 ... Red Deer, AB – Paramount (4)
  • 1967-01-12 ... Oshawa, ON – Regent (8)
  • 1967-01-13 ... Wilmington, NC – Manor (10)
  • 1967-01-18 ... Kamloops, BC – Paramount (6)
  • 1967-01-26 ... Red Deer (Lacombe), AB – Lux (moveover from Paramount, 4 [8])
  • 1967-01-27 ... Durham, NC – Center (12)
  • 1967-02-01 ... Montreal, QC – York (moveover from Seville, 7 [105])
  • 1967-02-02 ... Greensboro, NC – Terrace (18)
  • 1967-02-08 ... Vancouver (West Vancouver), BC – Park Royal (moveover from Ridge, 11 [110])
  • 1967-03-23 ... Montreal, QC – Versailles (moveover from York, 7 [112])

The music (and the money coming in) didn’t end with the roadshow release. Beginning in late 1966, 20th Century Fox placed The Sound of Music into a “Special Selective Engagement” release, which was, essentially, a modified roadshow in that the bookings were area exclusives with reserved performances, scheduled showtimes, and higher-than-normal admission prices. The distinction between this stage of its release and the original roadshow release is that seats, in most situations, were not reserved. It was at this stage that most small and mid-sized cities that did not run the film on a reserved-seat basis first played the film. It was also during this stage that many large cities began their first of numerous return engagements. The majority of these engagements were shown in 35mm.

The “General” release (“Continuous Performances at Popular Prices”) followed the “Special Selective” release in mid-to-late 1967, depending on the market, and it wasn’t until 1968 that many tiny one- or two-theater towns or drive-in theaters played the film for the first time. The film, amazingly, remained in circulation through the summer of 1969, at which time several theaters ran a “Farewell” engagement. Ultimately, The Sound of Music played over 9,000 engagements during its record run of four and a half years.


In North America, the film was officially re-released during 1973 and 1978 and in a limited 25th anniversary re-release during 1990. The film’s network television debut broadcast was in 1976, and its first home-video release was in 1979. In recent years “Sing-A-Long” presentations have become popular, and in 2001 the film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

And…if you thought the performance of The Sound of Music in the United States and Canada was impressive, keep reading!

[On to Page 4]

[Back to Page 3]


What follows is a list of the roadshow engagements of The Sound of Music shown outside the United States and Canada. Note that this segment is incomplete and accounts for a sampling of the world’s major cities to give a sense of the film’s global distribution and regional appeal.

Munich ad

  • 1965-03-29 ... London, England, UK – Dominion (170 weeks)
  • 1965-04-09 ... Auckland, New Zealand – Plaza (77)
  • 1965-04-15 ... Bournemouth, England, UK – Odeon (82)
  • 1965-04-15 ... Brighton, England, UK – Regent (62)
  • 1965-04-15 ... Christchurch, New Zealand – State (69)
  • 1965-04-15 ... Manchester, England, UK – Gaumont (128)
  • 1965-04-16 ... Glasgow, Scotland, UK – Gaumont (140)
  • 1965-04-17 ... Melbourne, Australia – Paris (140)
  • 1965-04-17 ... Sydney, Australia – Mayfair (140)
  • 1965-04-18 ... Birmingham, England, UK – Gaumont (168)
  • 1965-04-18 ... Blackpool, England, UK – Palladium (46)
  • 1965-04-18 ... Bristol, England, UK – Odeon (95)
  • 1965-04-18 ... Cardiff, Wales, UK – Capitol (82)
  • 1965-04-18 ... Edinburgh, Scotland, UK – Odeon (95)
  • 1965-04-18 ... Leeds, England, UK – Majestic (130)
  • 1965-04-18 ... Newcastle, England, UK – Queens (140)
  • 1965-04-18 ... Southampton, England, UK – Odeon (34)
  • 1965-05-20 ... Buenos Aires, Argentina – Ambassador (96) (La Novicia Rebelde)
  • 1965-05-26 ... San Juan, Puerto Rico – Metropolitan (44) (La Novicia Rebelde)
  • 1965-06-06 ... Liverpool, England, UK – Odeon (99)
  • 1965-06-16 ... Johannesburg, South Africa – Fine Arts (69)
  • 1965-06-16 ... Nairobi, Kenya – 20th Century (3)
  • 1965-06-26 ... Tokyo, Japan – Piccadilly (20)

Premiere ad & Dominion London

  • 1965-07-06 ... Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Palacio (44) (A Novica Rebelde)
  • 1965-07-12 ... Nottingham, England, UK – Odeon (112)
  • 1965-07-12 ... Sao Paulo, Brazil – Rivoli (39) (A Novica Rebelde)
  • 1965-07-14 ... Manila, Philippines – Ever (37)
  • 1965-07-14 ... Port of Spain, Trinidad – De Luxe (24+)
  • 1965-07-20 ... Bloemfontein, South Africa – Ritz
  • 1965-07-21 ... Singapore – Orchard (15)
  • 1965-07-28 ... Brisbane, Australia – Paris (72)
  • 1965-08-12 ... Kampala, Uganda – Norman (2)
  • 1965-08-16 ... Cape Town, South Africa – Van Riebeeck (19+)
  • 1965-08-18 ... Perth, Australia – Paris (70)
  • 1965-09-03 ... Tel Aviv, Israel – Peer (25) (Tze-leh ha-musica)
  • 1965-09-07 ... Santiago, Chile – Ducal (40) (La Novicia Rebelde)
  • 1965-09-09 ... Caracas, Venezuela – Florida (48) (La Novicia Rebelde)
  • 1965-09-26 ... Leicester, England, UK – Odeon
  • 1965-10-04 ... Sheffield, England, UK – Odeon (71)
  • 1965-10-06 ... Pretoria, South Africa – 20th Century (12+)
  • 1965-10-29 ... Bangkok, Thailand – Krung Kasem (20)
  • 1965-11-18 ... Mexico City, Mexico – Cine Manacar (65) (La Novicia Rebelde)
  • 1965-12-09 ... Stockholm, Sweden – Riviera (145)
  • 1965-12-17 ... Helsinki, Finland – Savoy
  • 1965-12-17 ... Wellington, New Zealand – Kings (41)
  • 1965-12-17 ... Zurich, Switzerland – Corso (6) (Meine Lieder, meine Träume)
  • 1965-12-20 ... Barcelona, Spain – Aribau (14) (Sonrisas y Lágrimas)
  • 1965-12-20 ... Copenhagen, Denmark – Imperial (24)
  • 1965-12-20 ... Madrid, Spain – Amaya (52) (Sonrisas y Lágrimas)
  • 1965-12-22 ... Rotterdam, Netherlands – Corso (125) (De Mooiste Muziek)
  • 1965-12-23 ... Antwerp, Belgium – Rubens (12)
  • 1965-12-23 ... Brussels, Belgium – Varietes (12)
  • 1965-12-23 ... Mumbai (Bombay), India – Regal (47)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Berlin (West Berlin), West Germany – Royal (4) (Meine Lieder, meine Träume)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Frankfurt, West Germany – Metro (2) (Meine Lieder, meine Träume)
  • 1965-12-25 ... Hamburg, West Germany – City (2) (Meine Lieder, meine Träume)
  • 1965-12-26 ... Oxford, England, UK – ABC George Street (57)
  • 1965-12-30 ... Bogota, Colombia – Palermo (La Novicia Rebelde)
  • 1965-12-30 ... Milan, Italy – Cavour (1) (Tutti Insieme Appassionatamente)
  • 1965-12-31 ... Vienna, Austria – Tabor (5) (Meine Lieder, meine Träume)
  • 1966-01-10 ... Lisbon, Portugal – Tivoli (44) (Musica no Coracão)
  • 1966-02-17 ... Adelaide, Australia – Paris (119)
  • 1966-02-17 ... Amsterdam, Netherlands – Du Midi (39) (De Mooiste Muziek)
  • 1966-02-18 ... Paris, France – Cameo (8) (La Mélodie du Bonheur)
  • 1966-02-18 ... Paris, France – Ermitage (8) (La Mélodie du Bonheur)
  • 1966-03-17 ... Hong Kong – Queen’s (12)
  • 1966-03-17 ... Hong Kong – Royal (12)
  • 1966-03-17 ... Hong Kong – State (10)
  • 1966-04-07 ... Oslo, Norway – Colosseum
  • 1966-04-18 ... Dusseldorf, West Germany – Capitol (4) (Meine Lieder, meine Träume)
  • 1966-05-20 ... Dublin, Ireland – Cinerama (91)
  • 1966-05-20 ... Munich, West Germany – City (3) (Meine Lieder, meine Träume)
  • 1966-06-29 ... San Jose, Costa Rica – Raventos (La Novicia Rebelde)
  • 1966-06-29 ... Taipei, Taiwan – Great World (16)
  • 1966-07-03 ... Norwich, England, UK – Gaumont (32)
  • 1966-10-24 ... Cairo, Egypt – Cairo Palace (23)
  • 1966-12-22 ... Delhi, India – Odeon (17)
  • 1967-12-20 ... Sydney, Australia – Paris (moveover from Mayfair, 41 [181])
  • 1967-12-21 ... Melbourne, Australia – Esquire (moveover from Paris, 38 [178])

Sound of Music soundtrack CDs and VHS release


The primary references for this project were numerous newspaper articles, film reviews and theater advertisements archived on microfilm; and the periodicals Boxoffice, The Film Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Motion Picture Herald, Motion Picture Exhibitor, Movie Marketing, and Variety. General references included the books George Lucas’s Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success (George Lucas Books/Harper Collins, 2010) and The Sound of Music: The Making of America’s Favorite Movie (Julia Antopol Hirsch, Contemporary Books, 1993); the websites and; and the motion picture The Sound of Music (1965, 20th Century-Fox).

This is a revised and updated version of a previously-published article. Research was conducted at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Die Deutsche Bibliothek, Frankfurt, Germany; Young Research Library (University of California Los Angeles); Southern Regional Library Facility (University of California Los Angeles); Margaret Herrick Library (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study), Beverly Hills, CA; Main Library (University of Illinois), Urbana, IL; as well as at several public libraries throughout the world.

Selected images ©Twentieth Century Fox

The Sound of Music: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Disc)


Stefan Adler, Jerry Alexander, Marilyn Arnold, Jan-Hein Bal, Serge Bosschaerts, Deborah Bryan, Raymond Caple, Mary Piero Carey, Evans Criswell, Anthony Cutts, Nick DiMaggio, Peter Fraser, Carlos Fresnedo, Jarrell Greever, Jean-Pierre Gutzeit, Sheldon Hall, Martin Hart, Thomas Hauerslev, Mike Heenan, Udo Heimansberg, Kim Holston, William Hooper, Bill Huelbig, Bill Jenkins, Matthew Kennedy, Bill Kretzel, Mark Lensenmayer, Paul Linfesty, Mike Matessino, Barry Monush, Robert Morrow, Gabriel Neeb, Jim Perry, Jochen Rudschies, Barbara Shatara, Grant Smith, Aubrey Solomon, Carol Stanley, Norman Shetler, Bob Throop, Ashley Ward, Gerhard Witte, Johan Wolthuis, Vince Young. As well, the author extends a very special thank-you to the many librarians who were of assistance throughout this project.

- Michael Coate

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